Food Bankers Graduate from NTFB’s Emerging Leaders Program

The 2023-24 cohort completed a business plan and prototype for a children’s garden kit that would raise revenue for the North Texas Food Bank while increasing awareness of its mission among families.

The Growing Hope Gardening Kit would allow young children to learn about the North Texas Food Bank and experience a piece of Jan’s Garden at home.

That was the pitch made by nine food bankers who recently graduated from NTFB’s Emerging Leaders program.

Emerging Leaders is an internal leadership development program that is designed to be challenging and equip individuals from various departments to be extraordinary with development tools, such as instructional content, coaching, community and connection.

Congrats to graduates Priscila George (IT), Shawn Martin (Strategic Initiatives), Jamie Palefsky (Nutrition), Brittnie Pinkard (Social Service Assistance), Austin Rowe (Food Sourcing), Luma Shoumali (Operations), Eryka Thompson (Communications) and Colbi White (Philanthropy).

Each individual was nominated to participate by their talent leader and spent the better part of a year attending sessions led by Lance Blakely and Sherry Yellin, who use a Leadership Excellence and Development curriculum they developed.

In September, the cohort was challenged to come up with a new, sustainable revenue stream for NTFB that also had a social impact. The idea or product also had to have brand awareness and advocate for an end to hunger.

Initially, the group researched the feasibility of marketing a food item. However, after looking at a case study involving a pricy initiative to sell flash-frozen broccoli, they decided to pivot.

Knowing that 80 percent of those who are familiar with NTFB are likely to contribute to a child advocacy cause, they decided instead on a children’s gardening kit.

The group spent months researching, looking into how they would manufacture and sell a kit, testing out elements from other garden kits on the market, and meeting with stakeholders throughout NTFB to better understand the impact the kit might have.

They also broke up into committees that focused on product development, a survey and marketability analysis, safety and risk factors, budgeting and marketing.

In April, the cohort presented NTFB’s executive team with a 30-page business plan for the Growing Hope Garden Kit.

Targeted at 8- to 11-year-old students, the box contains 3 branded packets of seeds, greenhouse and peat pallets, an interactive instructional booklet, branded labels and branded stickers.

The kit was also marketed as part of Jan’s Sprout Society, which the group said could act as the larger brand for any garden-related products that are developed in the future, whether gloves or gardening tools.

President and CEO Trisha Cunningham said while the NTFB leadership team hasn’t decided whether to implement the idea, they were impressed with the creative way this team of cross-functional leaders collaborated and worked toward a greater vision.

“I loved how this team came together, the energy they brought and the presentation they did, but more than that, I love how they leveraged everyone’s talents on the team,” she said.

Emerging Leaders takes place every other year. The last cohort presented the idea for the Repackaging Room, which is opening to volunteers this month.